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BALTIMORE, Md. -- Royal Farms' Director of Construction and Facilities Cindy Deken wants to get a message across to fellow convenience retailers considering greening up their stores, and that is: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is more doable than you think.
"We've found LEED for a retailer is much more achievable than we originally thought. There are many LEED restrictions that also make good business sense," Deken told CSNews Online, admitting there were initial concerns it could be a waste of time and money.
Baltimore-based Royal Farms, operator of 132 c-stores in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, recently achieved LEED certification for its first store. The company has 20 more locations in the process of becoming certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Of those 20, four are already open; the other 16 are either under construction or will be soon.
When Royal Farms started discussing green construction back in 2009, Deken said the chain was pleasantly surprised to find several major components of its store buildings were already within LEED certification standards, thanks to efforts by its architect, Peter Ratcliffe Architects Inc. of Stevenson, Md. "We realized we were already two-thirds of the way there," she said.
The use of white rubber roofs, waterless urinals and LED (light-emitting diode) lights were among the LEED-worthy components the convenience retailer already had in place. In 2008, it had also eliminated low-drop ceilings and added skylights for daylight harvesting.
To get the rest of the way there, the company partnered with consulting firm, Lorax Partnerships in Columbia, Md., which Deken said is helping lead the chain through the process.
"What worked to our advantage was that Royal Farms has such a well-thought-out standard and efficient process for designing, building and operating their stores," Neal Fiorelli, managing principal at Lorax Partnerships, said in a statement provided to CSNews Online.
"We determined it [would be] easier to adjust the typical process for implementing LEED, normally on a building-by-building basis, and instead integrate LEED into the Royal Farms standard. Modifying the standard for how Royal Farms builds its stores and focusing on those things that matched the stores' purpose and financials resulted in standardizing many sustainable practices for all Royal Farms stores, regardless of whether they seek LEED certification or not."
Of the 30 or so stores in Royal Farms' planning and construction phase over the next two years, nine are on schedule to be LEED-certified before the end of this year and a total of 19 locations are expected to be certified by this time next year, according to Fiorelli.
"We think this is a pretty significant accomplishment, and the costs have been nominal compared to what we often see for our non-office LEED projects," he noted.
Deken said LEED certification is most costly from an engineering perspective because a lot of documentation is needed. However, from a construction standpoint, she said there's been no difference in Royal Farms' costs. What's more, she noted the company is now building its stores "more responsibly" because construction materials have to be recycled to attain LEED.
At its first LEED-certified store in Dover, Pa., 91 percent of the construction materials were recycled. Other changes that have been necessary to get the stores up to LEED standards include the addition of a vestibule; installing dual-flush toilets; offering on-site recycling; and restricting smoking within 25 feet of the stores' entrances, according to Deken.
Going forward, Royal Farms is making the commitment that all of its new store builds will achieve LEED certification. In addition, the retailer said a number of its legacy sites are slated to be razed and rebuilt, and these locations will meet LEED standards as well.
Royal Farms hopes its efforts drive change throughout the Mid-Atlantic region where it operates. "We're so excited, and hope to encourage other retailers to do the same. What we would like to convey is that LEED construction makes sense in the retail environment," said Deken.
"Royal Farms has always been a leader and an innovator, and we feel that building in conjunction with USGBC standards is a way to exhibit our commitment to be a business leader, share our processes with other business leaders and continue to give back to our community. And by creating energy-efficient buildings, we ensure we will be here for the long-term."